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Banks bulk up in Hong Kong as China business overshadows politics

Some global banks, funds and other financial services providers say they are stepping up hiring in Hong Kong, in a sign the city’s unique position as a financial gateway to China is outweighing concerns about Beijing’s tightening grip over it.

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A Star Ferry boat crosses Victoria Harbour in front of a skyline of buildings in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Some global banks, funds and other financial services providers say they are stepping up hiring in Hong Kong, in a sign the city’s unique position as a financial gateway to China is outweighing concerns about Beijing’s tightening grip over it.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N), UBS AG (UBSG.S) and other banks are each hiring hundreds of people in the city this year, adding substantially to their existing ranks.

Citigroup, for example, has said it is bulking up its staffing by 1,500 people, including additional headcount and replacements in 2021, double the number of people it hired a year ago. It has about 4,000 people in the city. A Goldman spokesman said the bank, which has about 2,000 people in Greater China, expects hiring in Hong Kong to be up 20% this year.

The Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong’s market regulator, is seeing a rebound in licenses it issues for people involved in asset management, securities and other financial activities, according to data on its website. The total number of licenses it issued was up 1.7% at the end of March, compared with nine months earlier, and just shy of an all-time peak in 2019.

“Hong Kong has some unique advantages, and it will remain the gateway for many of our local and global clients to access China,” said Kaleem Rizvi, Head of Citi’s Asia-Pacific corporate bank.

Many financial companies slowed hiring last year, after protests against Chinese rule and a new security law imposed on the city to crush dissent by Beijing, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, six bankers, recruiters and other industry executives said.

The increased hiring plans of some major players show that they are now willing to live with the political risks.

“Everyone in the business community I have spoken with welcomes the peace and stability now, compared with the chaos of 2019,” said Weijian Shan, chairman and chief executive of Hong Kong-based private equity group PAG.

To be sure, politics remains contentious and unsettling for some finance professionals, some bankers have said. Some expatriate financial workers have left or considered leaving Hong Kong, along with thousands of residents of the former British colony.

Hong Kong police have asked some banks to hand over account details of opposition activists and politicians arrested under a stringent national security law imposed by Beijing, and the government has threatened jail time for bankers handling assets belonging to media tycoon Jimmy Lai frozen under the new law.

Hong Kong’s financial regulators declined to comment on banks’ hiring plans or some bankers’ disquiet about the political tightening.

CLOSE TO CHINA

Bankers and other financial services professionals interviewed by Reuters said much of the lure of being in Hong Kong comes from the city’s close ties to China and the business it brings.

That business is booming. Flows via the stock connect schemes linking Hong Kong with the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges rose to record highs in the first quarter of 2021.

Companies, mostly from mainland China, raised more money through Hong Kong listings in the first five months of this year than they did in the same period of the last four years combined, Refinitiv data shows. Mergers and acquisitions in Greater China are the highest since 2018.

Anthony Fasso, Asia Pacific chief executive of global asset manager PineBridge Investments, said Hong Kong was adapting to the new realities. “We believe that Hong Kong will remain a globally competitive international city at the doorstep of one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world,” Fasso said.

HIRING SPREE

Besides Goldman and Citigroup, Swiss bank UBS hired 200 people in the year through March, which consisted of 20 new full-time staff compared to seven in the previously financial year, a spokesman said.

The bank took on 100 contractors and 80 graduates in the year to March. It was the highest number of graduate recruits to join UBS in more than 10 years. The bank has 2,500 people based in Hong Kong.

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) has said it plans to add 400 staff in Hong Kong this year, part of its plan to recruit 5,000 people in the next five years in the region to wealth management in Asia.

Lok Yim, Hong Kong chief executive of Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE), said the German bank was also planning on making further strategic hires, after a first quarter that had been its strongest in years.

“We are probably two to three times as busy now as we were late last year,” said Olga Yung, regional director at recruitment firm Michael Page (PAGE.L) in Hong Kong.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/banks-bulk-up-hong-kong-china-business-overshadows-politics-2021-06-03/

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Reuters

EXCLUSIVE Galp to hold off on LNG investment until Mozambique ensures security

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

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The logo of GALP is seen next to a petrol station of GALP company near Lisbon, Portugal July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/Files

Portugal’s Galp Energia (GALP.LS), a partner in an Exxon Mobil-led gas consortium in Mozambique, will not invest in onshore plants there until authorities guarantee security and social stability, which may take time, CEO Andy Brown told Reuters.

This marks a second setback to Mozambique’s hopes to develop a major liquefied nature gas (LNG) hub in the coming years after TotalEnergies (TOTF.PA) suspended its own, separate LNG project in the country.

Attacks by militants in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, near the $30 billion Rovuma liquefied natural gas project, have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area. read more

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

But the CEO of Galp, which has a 10% stake in the consortium, told Reuters on Monday his company did not include investments in Rovuma’s onshore facilities in its net capital expenditure plan for the next five years.

“It means that at the moment it’s very hard for us to predict when the time to invest will be,” Brown said.

“Last year we were really planning to have built Rovuma by 2025 and I don’t want to make a promise on Rovuma and then disappoint the market again,” he said.

“We continue to monitor security developments in the region,” said Exxon (XOM.N) spokesperson Todd Spitler, adding that the company is working with the government of Mozambique “to enable development of this world class resource.”

The other major partner, Italy’s Eni (ENI.MI), declined to comment.

“Before Galp starts investing in the project, the government needs to work with the local population to create the right kind of stability and social cohesion, as well as security, on the ground … That may take a while,” Brown said.

Brown said that once France’s TotalEnergies, which stopped construction of a separate LNG project near Rovuma due to the latest attacks in March and is working with Mozambique to ensure stability in the area, has reliably resumed the work, “we will be in a position to consider our own project”.

Despite the setbacks, Mozambique with its attractive gas projects is “a really important country for Galp”, Brown said, and the consortium is “working to get the cost to a level where this project is really competitive”.

Brown said that over the next five years, Brazil will absorb “the vast majority” of the 320 million to 400 million euros ($388 million to $485 million) of net capex which Galp has allocated to upstream annually, while there will be “some investment in floating LNG in Mozambique and some small investments in Angola”.

The investments in Brazil will be “mostly allocated to already sanctioned developments, including the Bacalhau I,” he said.

($1 = 0.8252 euros)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Mozambican government has said it expects the consortium to take the final investment decision, already postponed from 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-galp-says-it-wont-invest-rovuma-until-mozambique-ensures-security-2021-06-14/

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Reuters

Google dangles paid upgrade to businesses using Gmail addresses

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday unveiled an option for small businesses to upgrade their Gmail accounts for greater calendaring, video chat and email newsletter functionalities.

Google Workspace Individual, which starts at $7.99 monthly including a temporary $2 discount, adds to the company’s expanding efforts to have users subscribe to some of its services such as YouTube and Google Photos in exchange for more support and features than are available for free. Subscription sales could help Google grow revenue beyond advertising.

The small-business offering compares with existing plans aimed at larger organizations that have their own websites to use in email addresses.

Javier Soltero, vice president for Google Workspace, told reporters that his unit had been informally saving photos of business cards or work vehicles mentioning an “@Gmail.com” address to “remind ourselves of the sheer number of people using our consumer products to run their businesses.”

Those that upgrade for appointment booking, newsletter production and other tools should be able to provide a more professional experience to clients, he said.

Workspace Individual will launch soon in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan.

Google announced other changes to Workspace on Monday. Big businesses will be able to control encryption of their files on Google Drive for the first time and prevent Google from unlocking them. Airbus SE is an early customer.

All users now have access to Google Chat, the company’s successor to instant-message program Google Hangouts.

Now for the first time in years, free and paid users alike will have the same set of chat and email services, providing a common foundation that makes it simpler to develop new features, Soltero said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/alphabet-google-workspace/google-dangles-paid-upgrade-to-businesses-using-gmail-addresses-idUSL2N2NT21G

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Reuters

Internal data from breach circulating online -CD Projekt

Internal company data leaked during a February security breach is now being circulated on the internet, Polish video games maker CD Projekt (CDR.WA) said in a statement published on Thursday.

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Cd Projekt headquarters is pictured in Warsaw, Poland January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Internal company data leaked during a February security breach is now being circulated on the internet, Polish video games maker CD Projekt (CDR.WA) said in a statement published on Thursday.

The attack, which compromised some of its internal systems including the source code to its much-hyped game Cyberpunk 2077, dealt another blow to the Warsaw-based business after the game’s launch was beset by glitches.

“We are not yet able to confirm the exact contents of the data in question, though we believe it may include current/former employee and contractor details in addition to data related to our games,” the statement said.

It added that the company couldn’t confirm whether or not the data has been manipulated or tampered with since the breach.

Separately, video game maker Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) said on Thursday that it is investigating a recent data breach, where some of its game source code and related tools were stolen.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/internal-data-breach-circulating-online-cd-projekt-2021-06-10/

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